Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WW: Synthetic cannabinoids cause fear and loathing — not so much in WA

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 4:11 PM

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“That shit will kill you,” is the response I get when I call up a local head shop and ask for Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid. Calls to other pipe shops and other weed-related establishments draw similarly perplexed responses when I call to ask if they sell Spice or any other synthetic cannabinoids. I’m still not sure where you can buy it in Spokane.

In Spokane, it might be hard to get your hands on synthetic cannabinoids — chemicals mixed with some plant matter to resemble marijuana — but other parts of the country are struggling with people getting high on the potent substance. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has seen a spike in recent years in the number of people nationally that are using the substance, which is often marketed as legal high.

Although it looks like marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids are significantly more toxic and their use can cause seizures, psychosis and even death. Most of the problems with synthetic cannabinoids appear to be occurring in states in back east, such as Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, New York and New Jersey.

“We’re not seeing the numbers they’re seeing on the East Coast,” says Alexander Garrard, clinical managing director of the Washington Poison Center.

According to Garrard, the number of calls to the center regarding exposure to synthetic cannabinoids has been on the decline. In 2011, the center received about 160 calls, he says. Last year, it received about 80.

Garrard says that the center has received calls from hospitals who’ve needed six people to restrain a patient having a violent reaction to synthetic cannabinoids. Some patients, he says, need to be placed on antipsychotics after their experience with the substance.

“It’s the type of patient that is very scary to treat,” he says.

Fortunately, he says synthetic cannabinoids never caught on with the drug-using community in Washington state. That might have something to do with people opting for legal weed over synthetics, but he doesn’t have evidence to directly correlate the two.

But the Washington State Legislature isn’t taking any chances and is considering legislation that will make synthetic cannabinoids along with cathinones and methcathinone, better known as “bath salts,” illegal.

Linda Graham, health policy and communications manager with the Spokane Regional Health District, says she doesn’t have any evidence that the use of synthetics is problem in Spokane. But she does note that companies will keep coming up with new chemicals that people will ingest.

“One of the things I’ve discovered is there are basically no limits on the degree to which people will go to get high or abuse their bodies,” says Graham. “It is truly amazing.”

Here’s the news elsewhere:

Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent socialist senator, is going to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s also open to legalization of marijuana.

Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow cannabidiol to treat seizures, which is not unlike the measure that failed to become law in Idaho.

Could marijuana legalization be on the ballot in Louisiana?

Two University of Akron students are developing a test to see if drivers have been using marijuana.

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